I’m so glad you joined us because we have David Allen and Jason Greer here. David Allen has been everywhere with his books. He is a legend. He gets things done and we’re going to talk to him about some of his work. He’s got a book for teens. Jason Greer calls himself the Employee Whisperer but he’s an interesting speaker and diversity consultant. He can help you learn what you need to know before you deal with unions. He is an interesting guy. We are going to talk to David and we’re going to talk to Jason.
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Getting Things Done with David Allen
I am here with David Allen who is the author, consultant, executive coach and international lecturer that everybody’s heard of. He’s widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on personal and organizational productivity. Forbes has recognized him as one of the top five executive coaches in the US and he’s one of the top 100 thought leaders by Leadership Magazine and Fast Company says he’s one of the most influential thinkers. I’m so excited to have you David and I appreciate you doing this. I’m thinking of how I had met your work. I was doing a training course for an organization and we were talking about emotional intelligence, Myers–Briggs and different things and they asked me to do a time management course. I researched all the work out there and came up with your work and I was so impressed by the original Getting Things Done which I realize you’ve rewritten and now you have Getting Things Done for Teens. It’s so nice to have you here on the show.
Thanks, Diane, for the invitation. I’m happy to be here.
You’re such a good sport and this is such an interesting topic because I have so many people that have issues with managing their time and being productive. I want to touch on the things that you had written in the original Getting Things Done and how it differs from how your new Getting Things Done for Teens. Who are these new markets for? Is this for parents, for kids, for whom?
It’s for everybody. We wrote it because I don’t have kids. My two co-authors do and have been using this methodology with their kids with great success. One of them happens to be a public school teacher in Minneapolis and he using it with these kids that he’s teaching and producing fabulous results. We wanted to get it out to that audience. A lot of people, once they read my book or once they ran across my methodology, the GTD as it’s now known methodology out there said, “I wish I’d learned this when I was twelve instead of in my 30s. It would’ve made a huge difference in my life.” Finding a way to be able to get this message out and not step down the message, the principles, and the model itself of how do you stay clear and how do you keep your head focused, is the same for a nine-year-old as it is for a CEO of a company. There’s no difference to the principles. There’s no different content about how they need to deal when an executive when they come back from a board meeting. They still have to empty their briefcase and take all the notes they took from the board meeting and the business cards and the receipts from whatever and they still have to deal with it.
A nine-year-old needs to empty his or her pack so that mom gets the thing she needs to sign so it’s not three weeks late. It’s the same principle in terms of capturing, clarifying, organizing, and managing the commitments you have in life and the things that have your attention is true universally. There’s no age limit delineation, there’s no gender, there is no personality type. It’s a universal issue that people need to address and deal with and you don’t need time, you need a room. I’m taking the time to have a good idea. The new cognitive science in the last ten to fifteen years has identified what I learned years ago. Your head is a crappy office and your brain did not evolve to remember, remind, prioritize and manage relationships between more than four things. That’s it. As soon as you have a fifth thing, you’ll be driven by latest and loudest because your brain did not evolve to do that. Your brain evolved to do very sophisticated stuff.Keeping your head focused is a universal issue that people need to address and deal with. Click To Tweet
Is that becoming less now that we’re losing our attention span?
It’s always been true. It’s a little more ubiquitous and a little more in your face. It’s a little easier to get addicted to the social media aspect. I wasted three hours on the phone with my teenage girlfriend when I was fourteen. I wasted time looking through yellow pages. It’s fun to look through and I’m staring at the bulletin boards in Laundromats. Social media is nothing but that because it fades and it’s in front of you 24/7. The difference is all those potential distractions is so much more ubiquitously available there for them.
There are so many distractions and you have to be on social media now to get your brand out there for whatever reasons. There are so many ways that we use social media and you have more than a million Twitter followers. Is that a distraction for you because you’ve got to come up with all this tweeting?
No, I didn’t. I’ve got a thousand tweets on there or at least 1,200 that are worth reading ever since 2009 when I first got on board with it. It was just a great medium. I love the medium. I love the 140-character limit so I could be coonish in how would I say something in a unique compact and condensed way that would let people go to another level about what I’m talking about. My stuff can be quite subtle. I loved having a medium to be able to do that with. That was fun and I happen to hit a nerve at the deal with perfect timing. At that time, people like Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble who were huge bloggers in the tech world then saw that I was on Twitter. They expanded me and they publicized that, and I got on the Twitter list which you had to pay millions of dollars to try to get onto and I said, “If you’re new to Twitter, who should you follow?” I got on that list. It’s just a perfect storm of stuff that happened.
If you didn’t get in at that time for people to build their Twitter following, it’s not the same thing anymore. It’s tough. You have to come up with your own information though and that takes some time. Do you work that? Do you write that down? Does your calendar show like, “At 9:15, I’m going to write a Twitter post or at 9:30?”
No. Most of my twitter posts are written while I’m eating dinner by myself or when I’m going to some client at work out of town and instead of going to a restaurant and having a good glass of wine saying, “Here’s a cool idea.” That’s how most of it showed up out there.
You don’t follow a lot of people. How do you determine who you follow? It’s interesting to follow people on the sites and see what they come up with. I saw your Twitter posts from your co-author doing a TED Talk for your book, Getting Things Done for Teens. Tell me a little bit what you think is the biggest difference for the teen’s book on what you had originally written for adults. What would you like people to know and who should buy this?
The teen’s book is an easier entry. We’ve got cartoons in there and they created two great characters, Minnie and Courtlyn who represent the frontal cortex and the amygdala. For a teenager, they’re going to have to deal with both those. The frontal cortex is the one who’s going to have to stay focused and make sure they get the report done on time and make sure that they get the college application in on time. It’s the one that controls their life and to make sure that they achieve appropriate outcomes. Describing it in that way, we’ve already gotten some information from some kids like, “He just showed up,” because they got distracted in this classroom. It gives a framework for a younger audience to be able to understand what the challenges that they’re dealing with in terms of all the potential distractions that are going on in that world out there. That’s the only difference and it was written. We’ve had a number of adults who read the books and say, “I needed this and this is fabulous.” It’s a great thing for them to share and we’re not holding our breath in terms of how many teenagers are going to walk into a bookstore and say, “I need a book on productivity.” I’m not holding my breath.
There’s a lot of need for it and I work on a board of advisors for a company that deals with K-12 children. We deal with soft skills, emotional intelligence, and some of these things that we try to teach at a young age now, they didn’t teach us when we were young. Do you think that you’re seeing more focus on what we can do to younger generations to help them be better prepared?
Mark, the guy who I tweeted about who did a TEDx Talk in Edina. Mark’s been doing this with nine to eleven-year-olds for three or four years and creating an incredible success with these kids that start to just think this way. The nice thing about reaching kids at that young age is go, “How am I supposed to think? Let me think about it this way. What do I need to decide about? What’s the next action on this thing? What are the projects that I’m trying to complete here?” That could be a report to finish. It could be a birthday party that they want to organize. It could be anything. Teaching kids to think about outcome and action which essentially the zeros and ones of productivity. What are you trying to accomplish and how do you allocate or reallocate your focus or attention on activities to make that happen? Those are two very different things. That’s a cognitive muscle. You have to train to think that way. Most people’s to-do list do not have either the outcome or the action on them. If you look at somebody’s to-do list, your thesis, mom, bank, tooth or party.
Something has got your attention but what are you doing? Why’d you written mom down? You had one. Why’d you written it on the list? What are you doing about her birthday? Unfortunately, most people’s organization or incomplete list are still unclear things that create as much stress as they relieved. What I uncovered was what are you need to do to make sure that the content of your system is appropriate and that you are able to get these things off your mind but that won’t happen by itself. You’re not born doing it. It’s trainable. It’s easy to do. It’s not hard. These are not a new foreign language or technology you have to learn. You don’t have to write things down. You know how to decide the next action on mom’s birthday or what’d you going to do about it. You know how to keep a list, you know how to look at the list and decide what to do. These are not new behaviors that anybody needs to learn. Everybody’s doing all of those to some degree. Most people are not even close to what they could do to be able to have a truly clear head.
If you’re writing a to-do list and then you’re like, “I didn’t get all this done.” You just switch it over to the next day and people do that a lot. How do you keep from doing that? You’ve got it out of your head.
Don’t do that. Just put it on a list that you don’t move from day-to-day. Just put it on a list of actions to do as soon as you can get around to them.
I see a lot of people who do that though and I don’t think that a lot of them didn’t get the psychic bandwidth or whatever to get their head clear. They get it out and yet they don’t do anything once they get it out. You’re only supposed to handle things and figure out. You’re not supposed to keep continually handling the same stuff over and over. You do something with it, and you get it then you go on. Is it any different with kids or teens? Do they have the same amount of bandwidth in their head that they need to clear and then if they make it list, are they more apt to follow it than adults? Have you looked at any of that?
I don’t have kids so I’m just talking anecdotally from my guys, my co-authors and on the other folks that I know about that. It’s all the same stuff. I met a woman who’s got an eleven-year-old boy who had 500 WhatsApp messages on his phone. The thing was he was cool because she said, “That’s just WhatsApp. He’s still doing his homework and doing everything else.” That wasn’t an issue for him. A pretty mature kid that believes he’ll get too distracted by all that.Your head is a crappy office. Click To Tweet
We get a lot of messages now because it’s changed a little bit since you wrote the book in terms of how much emails and how much different social networks and all that has changed. I know with me, I unsubscribe about every five seconds to something. It drives me crazy. Is it harder to keep up with all that? Do you have a method for unsubscribing and keeping your inbox clean?
I’m just going through cycles of that. I just empty my inbox every 24 to 48 hours.
That could be hundreds and hundreds for people the email that you get. It gets so tough and your book resonated so much. Your original book, I should say, because the other one is so new. There were so many productivity and time management books out there and I’m curious what you think is unique about what you’ve done that made it so popular.
GTD starts with where you are not with where you should be. You tried to focus on your life purpose or your vision or your big goals, but you can’t handle the day-to-day life. All you need to do is create more guilt and frustration. If I had you or anybody write down the top twenty things that are on your mind right now, very few of you are going to write down fulfill your destiny as a human spirit on the planet. It’s the only project you have. Why is that not on your mind? Because I needed a babysitter. I need tires on my car. I need to call the doctor. I need to hire a vice president of marketing. We start with where you are because if those things are out of control, you’ve got no space to think from a grounded way about the higher horizon commitments that you have. It’s about you being appropriately engaged. Are you appropriately engaged with your cat? Are you appropriately engaged with your health? Are you appropriately engaged with a life partner? Are you appropriately engaged with your finances? It’s about appropriate engagement. Anything that’s on your mind, you’re not appropriately engaged with yet unless you just like thinking about it.
A lot of people love the idea. They’re very strategic and they’re not tactical. They come up with all these great ideas. In the corporate world, do we need to be on teams with other people who are the tactical people or who are strategic thinkers?
It depends on who you are and how valuable you think thinking is. I’ve met and worked with people who just had 42 people on their staff who follow them around. All they did was think, spew, expand, and express themselves and people around them created enough value that they can pay big bucks to people following around and tracking all that. That’s fine. It depends on you. It depends on how are you with in terms of what’s got your attention. Are you present with whatever you’re doing?
It’s interesting that you call yourself lazy because we were talking, and you said you see yourself as lazy and you get so much done. You’re not lazy. You follow your processes. You go through what you’ve come up with your guidelines. Why do you think you’re lazy if you were able to create so much?
Lazy and efficient are pretty much the same thing. Why do I have to keep rethinking what that means whereas if I put it in the right place, I don’t have to rethinking what it means? I just decided whether I want to use it or not. I’ll just get organized so that I don’t have to keep rethinking what something means. When I go after errands, I just want to look at one place to see all the errands I need to run. I don’t want to trust my head. I don’t want to trust anything.
Are some people more efficient? You just walk into the kitchen and I’ll make sure I pick seven things up on the way and I do it all while I’m going while other people it will take seven trips back and forth. Is that something that is just a natural innate thing that some people are more efficient?
Maybe that’s because that’s how you do that. There may be other things in your life you don’t do that with. You may be walking by and you leave them there. You don’t take that thing and put it where it needs to go. Let’s look at your email. Did you do the same thing there? Let’s look at your desk. Do you do the same thing there? It could very well be that you just trained yourself in the kitchen. The kitchen is a great analogy because the kitchen is a great place to implement or to describe the process. In my book, I described the five levels or the five stages of how you get any situation under control. You capture, clarify, organize, reflect and engage. If you walk into the kitchen that’s out of control, the first thing you’re going to notice is what’s off. That’s the capture step. What’d you do then? You decide what it means like, “That’s a spice in the wrong place. That’s a dirty dish. That’s good food. That’s bad food.” What’d you do? You organize, you put good food to where that goes, you put the spice where spices go, you put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. You organized then you step back and look at the whole thing and say, “We got guests coming over in 45 minutes.” You pull that butter and you melted it. Those five steps of capture, clarify organize, review or reflect and engage.Most people's to-do list do not have either the outcome or the action on them. Click To Tweet
That’s how you get your kitchen under control. That’s also how you get your consciousness under control but that’s much subtler but it’s still the same principle. I didn’t make that up. I just recognized what it is. If you want to get a clear head, you better capture everything that’s got your attention. Anything in your life that is not on cruise control, you better get it out of your head and write it down. Sooner or later whether that’s mom or bank or teeth or whatever it is, you better decide what’s the next step. What does that mean to me? What am I going to do? What am I committed to finish about that? What’s the next step I need to take? You need to clarify then you need to organize. Put a reminder. Here are all the calls that I need to make. Here are all the errands I need to run. Here’s all this stuff I needed to talk to my life partner then you step back and reflect, “My life partner is in front of me. What are the six things I need to talk to him?” You pick one. I didn’t make it up. That’s how you get your kitchen under control and that’s how you get your company under control. That’s how I get anything under control.
How did you get your email box if you want to keep track of everything under control? A lot of people have a hard time organizing and keeping track of all their messages. When you unsubscribe from everybody that’s annoying you and you still have five million messages, how does it work for that?
It’s the same thing. First of all, is that email actionable? Yes or no? If no, you toss it and you trash it. You reference it or you park it in something that you’d be reminded of some appropriate date in the future. If it is actionable, what’s the very next step you take? Surf the website, respond back to them. What’s the next step? Once you decide that, you either do the action if you can do it in two minutes or less, delegate the action if you’re not the right person to take the action on that or just park that on the reminder. All you’d have to do is create a folder called the action emails or whatever and just drag it over there. If that one action won’t finish whatever that emails about, now you’ve got a project you better track. You got to park that somewhere.
Do you use a lot of charts and Gantts and different things to track things?
Not really. Just a list. I’ve got a list of all the projects I’ve got. I’ve got a list of the calls I need to make. I’ve got a list of the errands I need to run. I’ve got a list of the stuff I need to talk to Kathryn about. Not that many maybe eight or nine. I keep them digital. My capture stuff is all low tech, a pen and paper. There’s nothing better than to grab anything that I might need to do something about. I have a physical basket entry so all the physical notes that I take all go into the entry as well as mail, as well as receipts. I empty that physical entry like I do with my email basket and just go through and make these same decisions. Is it actionable? Yes or no? Toss it, take a look, file it. Next action, can I do it in two minutes? I just do it. Can I delegate it to somebody else? I’ll hand it off. I’ll just task and email with somebody to handle this stuff and then if I can’t, then I need to park some reminder of this action that I need to take in my list of actions. It’s not that complex.
Many people have all these great ideas. In the middle of the night, do you keep a pad and paper by your bed to remind yourself of things?
You could. That’s not a bad idea but if you’ve captured ideas the first time you had them, you’d be surprised after you have.
I know that this is a unique book for younger people and what you’ve done with your original book was insightful and it just resonated with the world. Everybody knows your work and I’m honored to talk about that here. A lot of people want to know how they can get your new book and reach you. I know that they can find you on Twitter because you have a million followers there but how else can they reach you?
GettingThingsDone.com is our website and there are a lot of free newsletters, podcasts as well as all of our partners around the world that are delivering our training. That’s a good place if you want to go see and surf around. You can also buy Getting Things Done the new addition to that or anywhere books are sold. It’s in lots of different languages too wherever you are in the world as well as Getting Things Done for Teens. Those are all places to start.
Do you still go to organizations to help them with this?
We have a lot of partners now. We’ve certified master trainers and coaches around the world and a lot of them have major corporate clients that are doing this work inside of major organizations. I still do keynote speeches and masterclasses and so forth every once in a while around the world.
You live in a beautiful part of the world so have a lovely day in Amsterdam. I’m jealous. I’d like to get on a bike and ride around over there. It was so nice of you to do this and I appreciate having you on the show. I hope everybody checks out your new book. It’s great content and your older books and this one is exciting for everybody. I hope they check it out. Thank you.
Thanks, Diane. It’s my pleasure.
Understanding People with Jason Greer
I am here with Jason Greer who is a highly regarded thought leader, speaker, consultant who provides expertise and solutions for government agencies, not-for-profit, higher education, community organizations. The list goes on and on. He deals with diverse global, multicultural, and hyperconnected world. It’s nice to have you here, Jason.
Thanks for having me, Diane.
I was interested in your work. You have a lot of things that you’re doing that are based on diversity which is a big topic out there. You have groundbreaking and inclusion training that you’ve offered. You’ve got a number one Amazon bestselling book People Matter Most. You do a lot of things. I’ve seen you on ABC, CBS, Forbes, and all the big networks. I’m curious what your background is because I’d like to know a little bit more about people just to know how you got to that point.
I would love to tell people that this was the career that I wanted and that’s why I pursued since I was eighteen, but I’d be completely lying. When I started out, I started as a social worker. A lot of people don’t know. I got my Bachelor’s degree in social work from Valparaiso University in Indiana then I got a Master’s degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. I had a notebook full of 365 ideas because I wrote an idea every single day when I was in grad school on how I was going to cure poverty. I graduate and I have this degree. I’m thinking the world just wants to hear what I have to say. I became a caseworker for the Department of Children and Family Services and within two weeks-time, I went to a client’s house and brought back flees to my apartment. I tried to give some ideas to a couple of the families who said, “You’re not my first caseworker and you won’t be my last caseworker. I don’t care about your ideas. Just give my money.” I was like, “I was not supposed to work like this.”
Over the period of time, I realized that social work was not necessarily what I wanted to continue to pursue professionally. I ended up getting my Master’s degree in human resources management with a focus on labor industrial relations. I went to work for the National Labor Relations Board and I was a federal agent. I love that process. It taught me a ton about employment law, labor law, and eventually I became a consultant. I started Greer Consulting Inc. in 2005. It’s been such a wonderful run because a good portion of my work is diversity management. The biggest portion of the work that we do is labor relations which in layman’s terms, we’re in the top 5% of the country for union avoidance. We do union avoidance for companies who are seeking to remain union-free while also doing what they can to heal the rift that exists between management and employees.
I got back from Hawaii and they had a huge union issue going on and everybody was picketing and on strike at all the hotels in Waikiki. It was confusing to me who was behind it. I know it was associated with Marriott and Sheraton but I’m not sure who they were picketing against. It was a big thing going on. Every morning at 7:00 it started with the banging and all day long. They had a very big protest going on and I had heard that it was going on for 40 days before we even got there. All these weddings going on and there’s banging and carrying on and these people, they want more money. You’d understand that. You don’t know who to feel sorry for. The bride who’s had her weddings is being ruined or these people who aren’t getting paid. You don’t know the whole story. How effective our unions first of all?
Traditionally speaking, unions have been very effective. Let’s say you and I run a company ABC and we think we’re doing a phenomenal job. The profit is through the roof. When we walked through the facility, the employees were smiling at us. They know us by name, we know them by name. You and I go back to the boardroom. We high five. We’re like, “Things are going great,” and then you get that petition from the National Labor Relations Board indicating that your employees want to vote or talk about an election as to whether or not they want to join a union. You and I both will say to each other, “They were just smiling at us. We just had a pizza party for them and they’re doing this to us.” Unions are very good at telling the employees that, “The Dianes and the Jasons of the world care more about profit than they care about you.” What I tell employers is be wary that the moment that you announced, “We’ve had record-breaking profits or we’ve had a banner year or we had a banner several years.”If you want to get a clear head, you better capture everything that's got your attention. Click To Tweet
The first thing your employee is going to do even though you have the employee appreciation parties and stuff like that, they’re going to ask the question, “If you’re making more money, why are we not making more money? You can’t do this business without me.” What unions are very good at saying to employees is, “While Diane’s in Hawaii, while Jason’s in Paris, you’re on the floor every single day hoping and praying that you just have enough money to pay for Christmas gifts for your kids.” That’s not American. That’s not the way things should be. Why unions are effective is because they know how to speak to the common struggles of the common man and common woman. When you look at it statistically, if you get targeted by a union, there’s over 60% chance that the union is going to come in. That’s where my organization comes in because we’re registered persuaders under the Department of Labor. We’re called persuaders, which is cool. My kids look at me like, “Dad, what’s a persuader?” The coolness factor for me went away after that.
The union has a very interesting term for us. What we effectively do is we come in and we’ll meet directly with your employees. We’ll educate them about the law, we’ll educate them about the process but at the same time, this is where my social work training comes in. Unfortunately, you have some people in the industry that are very good about coming in and just leaving bodies in the wake. They don’t care about the systems they destroyed. They don’t care about anything. The end goal for them is, “Let’s keep the union out.” We’re on the other side of that equation that says, “The union is simply a symptom of something else.” A moto of my company is, “People will work for money, but they will die for respect and they’ll die for recognition.” Over the course of the time that we had there, I need to understand. In terms of what you want for recognition, it might be different than what Joe wants for recognition. It’s up to me to not only understand what you need and what Joe needs but to help management understand how to speak directly to you.
It’s a mediation and helping people get to meet in the middle by having empathy and by understanding both sides.
Empathy is the biggest issue. I tell people that through the beauty of social media, we’re more interconnected than we’ve ever been before on surface. The reality is we’re more separated than we’ve ever been before because it’s very tough for me to convey how I feel about somebody in a text message. It’s very difficult for me to convey how I feel about a product in 141 or 142 words. Imagine if I take the time to step forward and meet that person where they are physically and face-to-face. Sit down over a cup of coffee or lunch whatever the case might be and ask them, “How are you doing?” Let them know that they’re being listened to and then I act on the issues that they bring on to me. That in a sense is the greatest source of union avoidance.
What’s interesting to me is your background. You see it from a couple of different perspectives. You were trying to help people in a situation that we said the real world came in and you got to see the reality of certain things. Do the people who would like to have a union have a hard time understanding your perspective that they would expect you to go almost on the other side instead of towards the corporate side?
Without a shadow of a doubt. I’m African-American so when you come into settings and let’s say that there’s a contingent of African-American employees who want to get it, the first thing they do is they look at me and they’re like, “You’re a sell-out. You should be here in the struggle with us. Instead of trying to convince us not to join the union, you should be in here helping us to change things.” What I tell people is this, “I’m not going to lie to you that my hope is that you consider not joining a union, but when I had the ability to do in the meantime to repair those fissures that exists between you and management, I can stand out here with the union. I can stand here with you all holding picket signs, talking about company ABC’s are unfair. Company ABC didn’t do this but what difference does that make? What matters most is what we do when we’re inside the organization and right now I have the ear of the CEO. I have the ear of her executive team. What is it that we can do to make this a better environment for you?” What I see is that people go from, “You’re the outsider, you’re a sell-out to now you’re a change agent.” A change agent is not acting on your own devices. You’re a change agent who’s acting in our best interest. That’s what I want more than anything else and that’s where I’m good.If you've captured ideas the first time you had them, you'd be surprised after that you've never really thought about it. Click To Tweet
What’s interesting to me is you’re widely known for your work in the area of racial reconciliation based on your experience as a victim of cross burnings and racial harassments by Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. What kind of background do you have with that? I saw that in your bio and I’m curious. Tell us a little bit more about that because that does paint more of a picture of your side, of where you’re coming from on this.
When I was seventeen years old it was in 1991, my father Dexter John Greer was a principal at Garfield Elementary School in the Normandy School System. My mom was a nurse at St. Mary’s Health Center in Clayton. My father had his PhD in educational psychology. My father is an amazing guy. My father is my best friend. I’m 6’3” and 260 pounds and my father is 5’7” maybe 200 pounds but nevertheless, my father saw a lot of his other colleagues who had their PhDs who were moving up in central administration. They’re going on to other bigger schools, so he decided if it’s going to work for them, it’s going to work for me throughout his resume and all throughout the country. If you remember the ‘90s, one of the big things was affirmative action and educational systems around the country had to meet a certain quota of diverse candidates that they interviewed. My father’s going around the country interviewing and continue to get the same form letter over and over and over again. “Dr. Greer, we’d love your enthusiasm. We love your intelligence, but we need to see that you have experienced educating other kids.”
The Normandy School System where my father was a principal was 99% African-American and Hispanic. All the kids was code for white kids but there was one school system in Dubuque, Iowa that decided to make my father an offer as a principal at Irving Elementary School. At that point I was on senior in high school, so my parents were going to move me. My mom and I stayed in St Louis and my father went to Dubuque. To make a long story short, we didn’t know that we were the first family to come to Dubuque under the construct of integration plan where they’re going to bring over 100 black families into Dubuque over the course of ten years. It’d be nice if they told us this.
I can see this now based on my work, based on my study but when I was seventeen years old, I didn’t understand why there were people in Dubuque who were so against this forced integration. You’re talking to the city of 58,000 to 59,000 people who had been historically white. All of a sudden you have this plan where they’re going to bring all these black families. The KKK organized rallies against my father. They found out where we lived in St. Louis and they burn crosses. I’m seventeen years old thinking that I understood the world and realizing that I had no idea what the world had to offer. It was at a certain point where I remember making a joke with my mom. I go, “I’m thinking about changing my first name because they keep calling me that,” so I might as well make it easier on them.
You have similarity in your first story in the fact that you have this open-minded wonderful intention and then you get into a situation and you find out the reality of the way the world is. How does this not keep you from getting cynical?
It’s the way I was designed. I have wonderful parents and the thing that my mother and my father continue to illustrate for me is you have one or two choices. You can either become what the world wants to be or you can choose to become what God wants you to be. I’m not going to lie. I have moments where I will leave a diversity training or I will leave an organizing campaign and I’m exhausted and I’m angry. I’m angry about some things that have been said about me. When we do our diversity training, we get deep. You had the pleasure of interviewing Phil Dixon. I learned a ton from Phil Dixon in terms of the way the brain works. Phil is awesome and a wonderful mentor to me since I first met him in 2005. We’ve taken many of those brain concepts and infuse them into the diversity training. My diversity training is not standard kum ba yah we need to get along. All African-Americans feel like this and all white American feel like this, etc. It’s more about what is your story. What are the things that you’re bringing to the table that maybe you’re not even aware of?
That ties into my research on the curiosity of what people aren’t aware of in their assumptions and their environment and all the things that impact their ability to be curious. I talked to Phil about that and others on the show. A lot of people are just held back, and they don’t even recognize it and that’s why I created an assessment to measure the things that hold people back. What are you hearing are the things that are holding people back in their stories?
There’s the theme so beware of anyone who looks at you and say, “I don’t see color.” Our brains are conditioned to pinpoint differences. Your brain’s safety mechanism. Pinpointing differences can be the difference between life or death.
Recognizing a difference and recognizing something as good and bad is different.
It depends upon your story. It depends upon the internal story and internal programming that’s going on that you might not even be aware of. I’ll give examples. I’m 6’3”, 270 pounds. I’ve gotten used to over the years walking past white women and they clutch their purses when they walked past me. I’ll never forget walking past this woman. I’m walking in Walmart and I was thinking about something else. My wife had sent me to Walmart to go pick up something. I couldn’t remember what it was and I was upset with myself that I didn’t write it down on my phone. I walked past this white woman who could have been 5’0”and 110 pounds. I walked past her and she clutches her purse. I’m like, “Why does she clutch her purse? I wasn’t doing anything.” I immediately took her assessment was. I was just wearing jeans and a shirt. I was like, “I’m going to test the theory here. I’m going to test the theory about nonconscious bias.” I imagine being in the same situation. I walk up to this woman and I tap her on the shoulder. She turns around and she looks up at me.
I’m like “I’m not trying to scare you and I promise you I’m not going to steal anything. I was just wondering when I walked past you, why did you clutch your purse?” She goes, “I didn’t close my purse.” I go, “You clutched your purse.” She goes, “I didn’t clutch my purse.” I’m trying to calm her down because she’s getting a little loud and I go, “Really, you clutched your purse.” She goes, “I didn’t clutch my purse and it has nothing to do with you being black.” I looked at her and I said, “Look down.” She looks down and she’s clutching her purse. Her face immediately went flush red. I go, “Don’t worry about it. You’re okay. Can I treat you to Subway?” Because there’s always a Subway sandwich shop in Walmart. We sit down and we’re eating our Subway sandwich and she was talking about this. It turned out that when she was eighteen years old, she was raped by a man who was around 6’3”, 280 pounds that fit my description. It was a white man, but it had nothing to do with race. It had to do with physical dimensions. She was not aware of the programming that was going on in her head that anytime she’s around somebody like that, she instantly flinched.
The story is important and to know your backstory what’s causing you to react the way you do.
The story is everything.Unions are effective because they know how to speak to the struggles of the common man and common woman. Click To Tweet
Is that what you touched on in your book, People Matter Most or is that more of a different direction?
People Matter Most is about understanding who your people are. I co-authored it with two other gentlemen. We touched at it from a perspective of assessment, knowing who it is you’re potentially bringing into your organization before you get started. From my piece, it was more about you have your employees. They’d been here with you for a year or two years. If you’re not putting the things in place to keep them or retain them, they’re either going to go out the door or even worse. It just so happened when we wrote the book I was coming out of a brutal campaign. When I say a campaign, it was a union avoidance campaign. It’s understanding where your employees are and also potential that they might unionize. We walk people through how to pinpoint what we call union hotspots, how to pinpoint your managers who might be problematic. I’m amazed at the number of companies who will hold onto managers who continue to rate very low and then when they get hit by a union, they’re like, “I didn’t know people just like gent.” About five years’ worth of data that says they hate the guy.
I see a lot of that unfortunately. People are in for a life thing because they’ve always been there. It’s the culture and if it’s not being bought in from the top that this is what we want in our leaders, it’s a problem and you get people in for a long time. I can see what you do would be helpful to a lot of organizations. I liked the perspective from where you come because with your background not just the St. Louis transitioning story but your history of what you wanted to go for your jobs and ending up in HR. You got a diverse background to help with diversity because you don’t get a lot of people who’ve had experiences from all angles like that. I could see why you’re such a natural that they would go to for a speaker and for counseling in this area. Do you mostly consult or you’re speaking or are you doing both? How can people reach you?
I do a ton of speaking and a lot of consulting as well, but I love being on stage. I love the direct training and I love speaking. You can reach me on my website GreerConsultingInc.com. Feel free to click on the at the top of the website to book a free 30-minute consultation with me. You could find me on Twitter @LaborDiversity. We’re always tweeting. The more I can talk about diversity, the more I can talk about even the union issues because the union issues are more about relating to your employees. My mission is getting people to a point where we stop talking in generalizations so we start talking specifically about, “If I’m working for you, Diane, what do I need from you? On the other side, what do you need from me?”
You’ve got a great content on your books and in your webinars and your different information that you have. A lot of people can benefit from this and I appreciate having you on this show. Thank you so much.
You are so much fun. Thank you. This is awesome.
It was great.
I want to thank David and Jason, especially David. He was interesting. All of his work that he’s done, he’s always been somebody that I’ve admired greatly and we get so many great guests on this show. It’s so fun for me to go back and listen to some of them because every one of them is more interesting than the next to me. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can find them at DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com. Anything we talk about on the show, if you think, “I’d like to go to that link or find out more about that.” You can go there and go right to them. If you’re interested in learning more about Cracking the Curiosity Code or the Curiosity Code Index, you can go to my website for that and that is CuriosityCode.com. I hope you enjoyed this show.
- David Allen
- Jason Greer
- Getting Things Done
- Getting Things Done for Teens
- People Matter Most
- Phil Dixon – previous episode
- @LaborDiversity – Twitter
- Curiosity Code Index
About David Allen
David Allen is an author, consultant, executive coach, and international lecturer. He is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on personal and organizational productivity. He is founder of the David Allen Company, which provides services designed to increase performance, capacity and aligned execution through its global partners. Clients include some of the world’s most prestigious corporations, including over 40% of the Fortune 100. His thirty-five years of pioneering research, coaching and education of some of the world’s highest-performing professionals have earned him Forbes’ recognition as one of the “Top five executive coaches” in the United States, and as one of the “Top 100 thought leaders” by Leadership Magazine. Fast Company hailed David Allen “One of the world’s most influential thinkers” in the arena of personal productivity, for his outstanding programs and writing on time and stress management, the power of aligned focus and vision, and his groundbreaking methodologies in management and executive peak performance.
About Jason Greer
Jason Greer is a highly regarded thought leader, speaker, and consultant, who provides expertise and solutions for government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, higher education, and community organizations on how to create and lead an effective workforce in a diverse, global, multicultural and hyper-connected world. Jason Greer has appeared on and has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, ABC, CBS, Forbes, WTOP Radio and FOX News Talk Radio on stories that include the Charleston church shooting and Ferguson unrest and protest and has a #1 Amazon.com Best Selling book “People Matter Most”.